Checklist For Planning A Concert

I have the pleasure of teaching music at a fairly new school (it is currently 6 years old). The school had never had a concert until this past October 1st. No one at this school had ever planned a concert, so all of the lessons I learned from this past show are vital for making the next show a success.  





Set the date and a backup date. Reserve venues. 


Set the date a year before. If that's too early for you, set the date at least 3-4 months in advance. Also choose a back-up date to account for weather, changes in the school year schedule, or anything else that might be out of your control. 





Go to the venue and find power outlets, the breaker box, and the light switches.


I made the mistake of taking 3-prong surge protectors to a venue that only takes 2-prong connections. Thankfully, the auditorium had a box full of compatible surge protectors. I will be MUCH more careful next time. 





Show your students pictures of the view from the stage.


Every time we rehearsed our pieces for the concert I would project the image of the audience for the students to practice with. The student MC's had to rehearse their lines while facing the photo of the audience.
I showed students photos of the stage so that they would become more familiar with their entrance and exits. We couldn't rehearse at the venue ($$$), so this was the best that I could offer my kids. 
Thankfully performance ran smoothly.






Reserve equipment FOR 2 DAYS (the day of your concert and the day before). 


Luckily the venue I hosted the concert in had lights and audio equipment integrated into the venue. If you are not so lucky, make sure you reserve the equipment for 1 day before the concert. Pick it up the day before, check it out, and make sure that all the cables, extensions, and batteries you need are included. 





Conduct maintenance on your instruments and/or make replacements NOW.


Have instruments fine tuned, replaced, and repaired way before your performance. This will help keep a good overall sound for your group. If an instrument needs to be replaced, it is best to replace it with enough time to for students to get used to the sound, look, and feel of the new one. Remember: it takes most students some time to transition and adjust to change. 





Select the theme and make the flyers, parent letters, and announcements


Even if your concert is on the calendar that parents receive from the school or on any other information you give students at the beginning of the year, most people will forget. You can get annoyed or you can get proactive. It is your job to create top-of-mind awareness about your show. I created a parents letter that went out before summer break. After summer break there were flyers all over the school promoting the fall concert. 2 weeks before the show parents received a reminder e-mail. 





Select the music STAT. And order it. Select backup repertoire as well. 


I chose all of the concert music early enough to give students an opportunity to memorize it. Seeing the students ready to perform helped me focus on other important elements of the performance. Having 2 weeks to spare gave me the opportunity to take much more time to work on the visual effects of the performance. give them new music.
One of the songs that I chose for a group did not work well with the flow of the show, so I had to make changes to the program. Luckily, I had a beautiful backup song that the students loved performing and I was able to rest easy knowing that I didn't have to order music or write an arrangement. 





Make a list of the equipment you need for the show. Take a few backups. 


The best way to make this list work is to imagine that you are going to give this list to someone who will load all of the instruments and equipment you need and that you will not be there to help them. 

My list looked like this:



  • 7 keyboards
  • 7 keyboard power outlets
  • 7 keyboard music stands
  • 2 surge protectors
  • 2 extension cords
  • 33 student chairs
  • 2 alto xylophones
  • 1 bass xylophone
  • 6 soft mallets
  • 1 bass drum
  • 1 snare drum
  • 1 hi-hat
  • 1 ride cymbal
  • 1 crash cymbal
  • 1 pair of drumsticks for the drum set



Talk to administration and try to get compensation for teacher volunteers


At my previous school I would have never thought to ask for help from my fellow teachers. When I was in band my band director always ran the show by himself. It was his way of doing things and it always went well, or so I thought.
Now that I am a music teacher and I reflect on that I realize that he was under a lot of pressure and stress that he could have shared had he had help. 

My administrators agreed to compensate teacher volunteers with replacement hours for their help with the concert. Therefore, if a teacher worked during setup, tear down, and the show, they could go to the Human Resources office and receive 4 replacement hours to use when they please in exchange for their work. 

My administrators also encouraged all teachers to support their own students' performances. Thanks to this announcement, we had 15 teacher volunteers. 





Find out who will attend and who will not.


We sent a parent letter home informing families about the date, venue, attire, and parking details. We also added a line at the bottom that read:
Can't attend? Please return this flyer to your music teacher.
Name:
Reason:





Create stage plans and show them to your student performers


A stage plan should answer the following questions:


  • How many chairs do you need?
  • How do chairs need to be set up?
  • How many stands do you need?
  • How do stands need to be set up?
  • Where will the teacher stand?
  • How many students perform?
  • Where or how will students enter performance area?
  • Where or how will students exit the performance area?

I created stage plans for all of the performances and I showed them to my students using a document camera. I talked to them about entering and exiting the performance areas and they gave me feedback and asked questions that helped me make modifications and improvements to the stage plan. 

The stage plan should be a document you can give to any person and they should be able to set everything up the way you would. 




Auditions:

  • Host auditions for your lead parts
  • Select the finalist
  • Select the runner-up
  • Give the runner-up opportunities to practice just in case your finalist gets sick or can't attend the show.
Allow students to audition for MC roles as well. Students can introduce you, the songs they will sing/play, or their ensemble. 




Microphones: 

If you expect students to use them at the concert, practice with them in your classroom. 
Set up a microphone in your classroom and have the students practice speaking/singing into it if they will have to do this at the concert. Our voices change on the microphone and it is not fair to expect a student to sing well if they are shocked by the drastic change.








CONVERSATION

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